City of Urbana - Police Department 400 S Vine St Urbana IL 61801 217-384-2320

The Urbana Police Department is located in the City Building and is open 24/7 365 days a year. There are 55 officers on staff split into three divisions: Patrol, Investigation, and Services. 


The Urbana Police Department was founded in July of 1855. In addition to serving Urbana, the department hired out its services to Champaign (then known as West Urbana) until the small neighboring town could establish a police force of its own. The department was originally located next to the County Courthouse, and relocated to its present location on South Vine Street in the 1960s. The department has grown steadily along with the population of Urbana, with twice the number of officers serving today as there were half a century ago.

As the department developed, it took advantage of each new form of communications technology that came along. Early in the twentieth century, police officers communicated with police headquarters via a callbox. Callboxes were placed throughout town and were simple telephone devices. When the light on the box lit up, the officer would unlock the box and answer the call from the dispatcher. By the end of the 1930s, callboxes had been replaced by radios. Though radios have, of course, evolved, they remain a staple of police communication even today. Each officer continues to receive calls from dispatch via radio, as well as through their computer.

In the 1980s, the City of Urbana began developing the software package that would become the Area-Wide Records Management System (ARMS). ARMS replaced a records system that was comprised of index cards containing information on individuals who had been in contact with the police. The card system was organized by name, which was an obvious limitation: one needed to know the correct name of a person in order to find any information about him or her. ARMS provided much more robust search capabilities than were available in the analog system it replaced.

In 1993, the police department acquired Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) for its squad cars. MDTs were simple computers, comprised of a keyboard and a small, text-only screen. Only 12 types of searches were possible and limited information would be returned from local, state, and national databases. Though impressive for its time, it was very limited by today’s standards.

In 2000, Urbana replaced its MDT units with Mobile Digital Computers (MDCs). MDCs are ruggedized laptops that connect wirelessly to a statewide network. These laptops enable officers to retrieve very detailed law enforcement records while in their squad car.  MDCs also receive dispatch tickets from the local dispatcher and are able to send and receive administrative messages. MDC units continue to be used today.


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This CU wiki entry began as a UIUC research project.  For more on that see Study of UC2B Anchor Institutions' Technology Use